This week in education, we have students exploring new opportunities with Shakespeare on stage and in workshops, we have competitions underway, we have the debate over modernized Shakespeare resources, and we have a handful of production items …
University Brings Stage Experience to Students
On Friday, the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega announced their partnership with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company and the Resurgens Theatre Company to provide students and faculty the opportunity to work with Shakespeare performance groups. UNG students will receive priority consideration for internships and practicums while faculty members will be able to link ongoing productions to their course offerings.
Dr. Brent Griffin, an assistant professor of English at UNG as well as the president and artistic director of the Resurgens Theatre Company, will facilitate the new relationship.
Comic Book Shakespeare in the Classroom
Over at TES Connect, Jon Severs explores the debate created in the classroom when teachers consider using resources like Classical Comics (which we previously mentioned at TSS). Severs notes that proponents of the comic books defend their ability to engage students with stimulating visuals rather than difficult, boring text. Detractors, however, will see this insistence on re-imagining or modernizing Shakespeare’s tales as another “dumbing down” of education.
I was struck by the quote from the company that claims the format “enhances the enjoyment for the reader by helping them to visualise characters and follow plots more easily.” You can choose between original and “quick” rewritten text which seems to indicate that the company is predominantly interested in emphasizing the visual experience. This tactic might be useful for Emily Bronte or Charles Dickens … but Shakespeare? Take a look, for example, at this image from the website:
Herein lies the problem, friends.
There is a way to bring the pages to life! Shakespeare was a playwright. He wrote plays intended for performance … which would also help students visualize characters and follow the plot. I’ve got nothing against comic books or exploring alternative resources for alternative learners, but first give Shakespeare a chance on his own terms. Use performance. Integrate interactivity. Unless you’re studying the sonnets, you should probably think of his works less like a book report and more like a class of improv.
Competition and Collaboration
The Utah Shakespeare Festival and Southern Utah University recently hosted the thirty-eighth annual Shakespeare Competition for over three thousand students. Actors, dancers, musicians, and technicians entered the largest scholastic Shakespeare competition in the country from October 9 through 11. The event featured sixth graders through high school seniors performing monologues, scenes, dances, musical arrangements, and technical presentations for professional judges.
This month features the Fall Festival of Shakespeare for students in the Berkshires, eastern Massachusetts, and western New York. The Festival takes place over the course of four nights and four Common Classes wherein teen participants from ten different schools collaborate together and explore Shakespeare’s works. On October 8, the first class began with Stage Combat. Shakespeare & Company will host the remaining three classes each: Dance and Movement (Oct 15), Technical Theatre (Oct 21), and Performance Preparation (Oct 29).
Student Group Attends Production
When the Alabama Shakespeare Festival arrives at Brookwood Middle and Upper School to perform As You Like It, a group of fourth and fifth graders from the Afternoons with Shakespeare program will attend and participate in a student workshop. The group, lead by two teachers who took part in a summer intensive through the University of Warwick and the Royal Shakespeare Company, incorporates teachings from “Stand Up for Shakespeare.”
Other Bits of Interest
- John Bell, the founder of Bell Shakespeare, Australia’s national Shakespeare company, announced on Friday that he is stepping down as Artistic Director at the end of 2015. The company’s Actors At Work program takes production tours into primary and secondary schools in every state and territory.
- On October 16, the University of Hawaiʻi – West Oʻahu Distinguished Visiting Scholars Program will host a performance of Macbeth. The Hawaii Shakespeare Festival, with a cast of four, will present the hour-long production for free to the public.
- Twenty-seven students from the Dean Close School of Cheltenham in Gloucestershire will perform Richard III at the Bacon Theatre on October 15 and 16. The dystopian production runs ninety minutes and takes place in a bunker in the near future.
- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will hold its Costume, Prop, and Scenery Sale on Sunday, October 19 from 10 am. to 4 pm. All proceeds from the sale benefit The Shakespeare Theatre’s artistic and educational programs.
What do you think? Have an opinion on the use of Classical Comics to teach Shakespeare? Have you seen a production by Atlanta Shakes or Resurgens? What do you think about John Bell stepping down? Let us know and start a conversation …